As part of the weekend, the POPCulture Online crew had the opportunity to head down to the national stadium once more this time for the Barclays Asia Trophy Finals 2015. Coming off from the first 2 games played earlier in the week, we were in for a real treat to witness 2 matches. The 3rd and 4th placing between Singapore xi vs Stoke City and Finals between Everton vs Arsenal. The Barclays Asia Trophy is held traditionally in Asia every 2 years since 2003. The competition has been hosted by a few Asian countries notably Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Thailand. However, for the very first time this year, Singapore was very proud to be hosting this competition at our new National Stadium.
As we made our way to the stadium, we saw fans pouring into the stadium. Most of them Arsenal fans and they came fully dressed up for the event. Sporting jerseys, scarfs, flags, it is no wonder that Singapore fans are truly passionate football fans as they prepared themselves for the big finals game ahead.
The first match involved the Singapore xi team consisting of Singapore internationals and selected players from the S league against Stoke city. Stoke saw familiar faces like Peter Crouch, Marko Arnautovic and Mame Biram Diouf who was the club’s top scorer last season. Peter Odemwingie also made a return to the first team. With the home team advantage, the Singapore xi was actively cheered on by the crowd who got behind their team. It didn’t take long for stoke to open their scoring in the opening 7 minutes. Steve Sidwell who finished from close range after a Peter Crouch assist. Stoke were unfortunate to extend their lead with a disallowed goal when Arnautovic appeared to be legitimately onside. Singapore xi had their fair share of chances when Sufuwan Baharudin appeared to have lifted the ball over Shay Given only for the shot go agonizingly wide. Arnautovic was not done yet when the Austrian Winger received a pass in the box to calmly slot home with finesse extending their lead 2-0. Good try Singapore xi as we played a possession game of football and kept the score line respectable! The 3rd place winners were crowned and congratulations to Stoke city who saw off a resilient Singapore xi selection 2-0 final score.
Now onto the main event the crowd had been waiting for. Notably, the stadium started to fill up and the attendance for the night was announced. Over 52,000 people packed into the national stadium that night to witness the Finals between Everton and Arsenal. It was a dream for many of the home supporters to watch 2 top BPL sides compete against each other.
Arsene Wenger did not hold back on his starting lineup as we saw new signing Peter Cech making his debut for his new club. The Arsenal starting eleven consisted of familiar names like Koscielny, Ramsey, Carzola, Wilshere, Ozil, Walcott and Giroud. Everton also started new signings Deulofeu and Tom Cleverley. Notably players like Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Naismith, Barry also were in the starting eleven.
Both teams started with great enthusiasm but it was always Arsenal that was going to strike first as Theo Walcott made it 1-0 after an exquisite pass from Santi Carzola which made the finish all too simple. Everton came close as Naismith rattled the woodwork in the 40th minute. Santi Carzola was clearly not done as he started a dribble outside the box faking and feinting twice before firing a low shot finding the bottom corner of the net. No chance for the keeper there. By this time, there was no turning back for Arsenal. Ozil then set up the final goal with a finesse shot round the keeper with his favorite left foot.
Everton Coach Roberto Martinez then brought on attacking options Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku. Instead it was up to young Ross Barkley who fired an unstoppable shot on his weak foot to beat Peter Cech denying him a clean sheet on his debut. The final score 3-1 saw Arsenal beat Everton convincingly to lift the Barclays Asia Trophy 2015. A great winning start for Wenger’s men as they prepare for the upcoming season ahead. A wonderful tournament and great venue, hopefully this would be the start of many Barclay Asia Trophies to be hosted in Singapore. A big shout out to the organizing committee, staff, teams, players, coaches as they contributed to make this a memorable evening for some 52000 fans packed into the national stadium.
By Kenneth Choong
© POPCulture Online 2015